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Poetry Canadian

Optic Nerve

by (author) Matthew Hollett

Brick Books
Initial publish date
Apr 2023
Canadian, Nature
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Apr 2023
    List Price

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Poems using fervent whimsy and wordplay to examine photography and seeing.

Peering inside eyeballs, pondering the paradox of absent stars, and meditating on street scenes by André Kertész, these poems squint sidelong at our ways of seeing the world. Through playful poems about photography and visual perception, Hollett dissects auroras and quarks, atmospheric phenomena, potatoes, bomb craters and peat bog cadavers. This darkly comic collection is shadowed by entoptic paparazzi, haunted by peripheral visions. Born of attentive walking and looking, of footsteps and snapshots, it bears witness to art history and alluvial light, portable keyholes, the pandemic, climate change, and the sheer strangeness of seeing everyday things with ecstatic eyes.

About the author

Matthew Hollett is an award—winning writer and visual artist in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador. Album Rock is his first book. Matthew won the 2018 Ralph Gustafson Prize for Best Poem. He was awarded the 2018 Cox & Palmer Sparks Creative Writing Award and the Landfall Trust Residency.
His poetry collection, Optic Nerve, won the 2017 NLCU Fresh Fish Award. He also won the 2017 Prairie Fire Short Fiction Contest, The Malahat Review's 2017 Open Season Award for Creative Nonfiction, and In 2017 he was selected as Newfoundland Quarterly's inaugural Creative Nonfiction Fellow. Matthew was longlisted for the 2016 CBC Poetry Prize.
His writing has been published most recently in Riddle Fence and PRISM International, and previously in anthologies such as The March Hare Anthology and Shift & Switch: New Canadian Poetry. Check out his webpage at

Matthew Hollett's profile page

Editorial Reviews

"If Elizabeth Bishop and Pablo Neruda had collaborated on a book called The Art of Looking, it might read something like this luminous and assured debut collection from Matthew Hollett. Here is the poet as photographer, framing and reframing each image so that the reader might see it anew. I'm struck by how alive these poems are, animated by light and wind, frost and ocean, music and cinema and spider's web. As soon as I finished reading this collection, I immediately wanted to start it again." — Jen Currin, author of School and Hider/Seeker

"Optic Nerve is a dazzling and timely collection. Hollett writes as if from beneath the skin of the everyday, as if with super-powered vision." — Sara Baume, author of Seven Steeples

"Who knew having your brain poked through your eye holes would be such a good time? With disarmingly honest curiosity, these poems scrutinize open wounds of all kinds — a scratch, a bulldozed building, and a cloudless sky — and remain buoyant. Optic Nerve teaches us that anything can be a light show if you know how to look. It's ekphrasis at its best." — Mary Germaine, author of Congratulations, Rhododendrons

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